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Real-Life Scenarios in EP: Security Assignment Gone Right

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Do you count yourself lucky for evading that uncomfortable situation with the principal’s fans? How often do you genuinely enjoy a monotonous security assignment during uneventful days? Well, we can say that most people in the industry want to have more — not fewer — of those!

For the first bundle of real-life scenarios, we sat down with security manager Matthew Porcelli. As our long-time contributor, he was so kind to share three short stories with the EP Wired community!

1: Safeguarding the Brand

When I was a security operations manager at Newark Liberty International Airport, we had an oil minister with their aircraft that we would protect overnight. It was in a place called the hardstand. That’s where the plane more or less goes to sleep, but a whole process goes into it.

Executive protection is not just about the individual. It’s the brand they represent. It’s their investment. Obviously, the highest investment somebody can make is in their people. Especially when protecting a multi-million dollar aircraft that can be used as an air-to-ground missile. Now, this is a unique security assignment.

United 93 took off from Newark Liberty International Airport on 9/11, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  When I started working as a security operations manager in 2014, I had about 20 security agents. We used to search aircrafts, conducted pat-downs, and used metal detectors for the crew, engineers, and catering representatives coming on to service the outbound flights.

But people don’t realize when these planes are “asleep,” you must put up seals on the aircraft. So for everything that can be accessible from the ground, you have to put a seal on it and make sure nobody tampers with it. So we had a security agent there overnight — and I’ve done that before as well.

While we were guarding the oil minister’s private aircraft, the take-off was delayed because he didn’t have eggs for his morning omelet. So the whole operation stopped until somebody went out and got him six eggs. The hold-up affected the air traffic.

There is a concept known as protection in depth or the concentric circles of protection. So, for our example, the oil minister has their own executive protection team from Saudi Arabia, and it’s really about a mindset.

United 93 took off from Newark Liberty International Airport. The gate on Terminal A has a flag, and I would have to train security agents on how to drive on the tarmac to respond to terminals and aircraft that were coming in, and whatnot. But I’ve always substantiated with the following:

  • I’ve told them this aircraft could be used as an air-to-ground missile, and this is somebody’s brand, somebody’s “baby,” so to speak.

The gate United 93 took off, but I would also remind people by pointing east to where the World Trade Center was. I would say: This is why we do all this training because it only takes a split second.

For this reason, it’s essential that the executive protection agent knows that the security assignment is not just mindless standing, doing this, and trying to look strong and tough. Instead, it’s basically taking a passive mindset and changing it into a “what are the ramifications if our circle or layer of security fails.”

If something happens to a brand, the recovery process is astronomical.

2: A Stint of Carelessness

I was assigned to a detail for a US senator. The security provider I was working for wanted a team of six to seven executive protection agents with the chief security officer to help secure the egress and whatnot.

Now, what does a politician usually do? They want votes, to shake hands with people. I don’t know who instigated it, but the senator started taking selfies with people. It’s a catch-22 because, at the exact moment, you are taking selfies with the principal.

Remember, these are private security officers. But really, how do you tell your principal? When you are trying to make everything run smoothly, and they want to deviate from the plan and start taking selfies.

For the senator, that was great because it likely looks good. But what if those pictures end up on social media? Further, if people would know exactly where he was, where he was going, and the car he was in?

People don’t think about it now, but the elevated exposure on social media could have weakened the circles of protection.

3: On Having Seconds

There was a corporate governance meeting at a hotel with a big organization. There were a lot of, let’s just say, angry individuals in attendance. So, I had a staff of 10 and had them strategically placed around the hotel. But then the organizers moved the room.

We already had an advance team there, but we had to reconfigure everything with the actual staff, which were two civilian security managers with the Department of Defense. So we basically had to adapt to the new environment. For example, communications needed to be re-established and set up properly. And it was Chatham House; it was a government contract.

The principal at the time was the CEO. And he was moved from one room to another room on the other side of the hotel.

After everything was set up, we were at our posts, and they provided food for us. We had a guy on our team, a sweet guy. I will never forget he called over the radio and said: “Andrew to Matt. Are we allowed to have seconds?” I was like: “Please don’t broadcast that.”

Takeaways

It’s one thing to have a group of executive protection agents who are former law enforcement and former military on a security assignment. You try to do that with people who are more or less doing it for a job, and you could get this result. We overcame the communication issues because once this principal was moved, not only did I have to reconfigure my security team, exits, and patrols, but we also adapted.

But the thing is you have some people who have never used a radio. It may sound trivial, but it’s challenging. In private security, all you need is a security officer license and minimal training. It’s up to me as the manager to get on their level. No disrespect intended.

The biggest challenge was not only adapting to the different venues on the other side of the hotel with separate exits. It was also trying to motivate and make sure that my security officers knew what was going on and the severity of what was happening during the security assignment.

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